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January 04, 2006

Hitman Who Killed Robb Was Former Soldier

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News about Ireland & the Irish

DI 01/04/06 Hitman Who Killed Robb Was Former Soldier
IN 01/04/06 Murder Bid Leads To Loyalist Feud Fears
IN 01/04/06 As All Prepare Spotlight Turns To DUP
BT 01/04/06 McGuinness Denies Motorman Knowledge
IE 01/04/06 Sinn Fein Figures Brave Rumor Mills
BB 01/04/06 Council Backs St Pat's Day Parade
IE 01/04/06 Irish American Leaders Call For Assembly Return
DI 01/04/06 Fired Up Over Queen's Toast
BT 01/04/06 UUP Calls To Suspend Plans For Shake-Up
IE 01/04/06 McKeown: Arson Was Mass Murder Attempts
UT 01/04/06 2006 'Window Of Opportunity' For N Ireland
RH 01/04/06 1975: O Bradaigh's 1975 Papers Released
BB 01/04/06 01/05/76: Ten Dead In Northern Ireland Ambush
IT 01/05/06 Opin: Spying Will End Only When There Is Trust
IN 01/04/06 Opin: Unionists In Danger Of Losing Bauble
IT 01/05/06 Flaws Found In Sections Of Dublin's Luas System
GI 01/04/06 Book: Holy Cross- Personal Experience Fr Troy
IO 01/05/06 Family Use Camera Flash To Guide Rescuers
IN 01/04/06 Tributes Paid To Parish Priest
IT 01/05/06 Clare Island Homes To Get Firefighting Devices
IT 01/05/06 Irish Visitors Grew To 6.7m; Rural In Decline
IT 01/05/06 End-Of-Yr Fáilte Rev Shows B&Bs Under Pressure


Hitman Who Killed Robb Was Former Soldier

Former LVF member was victim of contract killing - Daily
Ireland reveals new details about the weekend murder of Co
Armagh loyalist gun-runner Lindsay Robb in Scotland

Ciarán Barnes

The man being hunted by Scottish police for the murder of
Co Armagh loyalist gun-runner Lindsay Robb is a former
member of the British army.

Daily Ireland has also learned that Robb, who was stabbed a
total of 19 times on New Year's Eve, was the victim of a
contract killing.

It has also emerged that a Glasgow criminal, who witnessed
the murder, identified the killer to Strathclyde police
during questioning.

The family of a ten-year-old boy, who also witnessed the
attack, has gone into hiding after the juvenile made a
statement to the police naming Robb's murderer.

The knifeman, who is in his 30s and a former member of the
British army, is believed to have served in the North
during the 1990s. He quit being a soldier a number of years
ago because of his drug habit.

Sources in the Ruchazie area of Glasgow, where the murder
occurred, said the man is known as a contract killer.

They said that in recent years two murder cases against him
have collapsed after witnesses were intimidated into not
giving evidence. He is currently in hiding from murder
squad detectives.

Initial reports in the hours after the Robb murder said the
38-year-old had been killed after refusing to give a lift
or lend money to the ex-soldier.

Daily Ireland understands that the killer's request for a
lift and cash was a ploy to get close enough to Robb to
stab him.

The loyalist's growing involvement in the Glasgow drugs
trade is believed to have been the motive for his murder.

Rival gangs in the city were determined not to allow him to
muscle in on their business.

"This was definitely a contract killing," said one source.

"Lindsay Robb had a landscape gardening business, but this
was a front for his involvement in drugs. He was getting
too big and crossed a couple of people."

Robb switched allegiances from the Ulster Volunteer Force
(UVF) to the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) while serving a
ten-year sentence for UVF gun running in 1996. Robb used
his network of contacts in Scotland to supply the LVF with
cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy.

A favourite trick of his was to use the cover of Rangers
games to transport drugs from Scotland to the North in
vehicles belonging to LVF sympathisers.

Prior to his gun-running conviction, Robb had been part of
the UVF-linked Progressive Unionist Party talks team.

He also provided key evidence in the case against Co Armagh
republican Colin Duffy who had been found guilty of
murdering a British soldier in 1993.

Duffy was later freed after Robb's testimony was dismissed
by appeal judges and it became clear that his conviction
was unsafe.


Murder Bid Leads To Loyalist Feud Fears

By Barry McCaffrey

THERE were fears of a new round of internal loyalist
feuding last night after the UDA was blamed for an
attempted murder in Belfast.

Police have confirmed that a group of men entered a house
in Ballysillan, in the north of the city, on Monday night
and attacked a man.

It is understood that one shot was fired during the
incident but the gang made off after neighbours intervened.

While police said a motive had yet to be established for
the attack, security sources are treating it as attempted
murder and have linked it to a dispute between the UDA and
LVF over drugs.

There was a heavy police presence in Ballysillan yesterday
as rival UDA and LVF gangs confronted each other.

While the LVF announced last October that it was standing
down it is understood that the continued presence of former
senior members in the Ballysillan Avenue area has led to
conflict with the UDA.

The area has been the scene of successive loyalist feuds
since 2001 when the LVF and UVF clashed over a mural.

Church groups established night-time patrols during the
height of last year's feud in an effort to reduce tensions.

But it is understood that the ex-LVF figures have now come
into conflict with former associates in the UDA.

In December the UDA moved a number of families into va-cant
houses in Ballysillan Avenue in what was seen as a bid to
seize control of the area.

Two men from the Ballysillan Avenue, Jameson Lockhart and
Michael Green, were murdered during the UVF/LVF feud last

Police rejected UVF claims that either man was connected to
the LVF.


As All Sides Prepare For IMC Report Spotlight Turns To DUP

By William Graham Political Correspondent

The Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) at the end of
this month is now expected to give a positive report on the
complete cessation of IRA paramilitary and criminal

If this assessment turns out to be correct then both the
Republic and British governments see the IMC report as some
kind of trigger for getting the peace process talks back on

The destination for the peace process train is supposed to
be Parliament Buildings, Stormont and restored power-
sharing government.

Secretary of State Peter Hain has clearly indicated that he
wants to get the parties together as soon as possible to
discuss the issues but a lot will depend on the political
landscape after the IMC report.

The aim of the governments will be to try and figure out
the way ahead.

Behind the scenes the governments have to be realistic
about the possibilities for progress.

No-one expects a sudden breakthrough as this is not in the
nature of northern politics.

British government sources said yesterday "we are where we
are... and what happens in the next weeks and months is
really very much in the hands of the political parties and
how they react to things".

"We will do as much as we can

and you can be assured of the government's determination to
make things work," they said.

Yet observers believe it is now becoming quite clear that
the DUP will not be rushed into power-sharing with
republicans. There is even talk from the DUP of trying some
kind of two-step approach.

Essentially, the spotlight will be on the DUP after the IMC
report to at least start making preparations for the return
of devolution.

Significantly, however, the DUP's Peter Robinson has made
it clear that because of the lack of trust there is now no
real prospect at least for the foreseeable future of
establishing power-sharing government in either a mandatory
or voluntary form.

The idea has been tossed up in the air by the DUP's Mr

that perhaps a non-executive form of devolution should be
tried as a first step.

This suggestion is unlikely to be embraced by nationalists
and republicans, or indeed the two governments, who are
wedded to the structures of the Good Friday Agreement as
the way forward.

Yesterday Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said the time for
excuses are over and a collective effort needs to be made
to see the political institutions up and running and the
other outstanding aspects of the agreement implemented.

Mr Adams said: "As part of this we need to see an immediate
end to the activities of those elements in Britain's
intelligence agencies who are working day and night to
prevent progress.

"Republicans have set out our intentions. We have shown our
commitment to the peace process by our words and actions.
Others need to do the same."

Mr Adams added that Sinn Fein was determined that the
opportunities presented by the IRA initiative are not

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has also emphasised that he wants to
see devolution restored as soon as possible. Mr Ahern has
said that the IMC report on IRA activity at the end of
January will be crucial.

If this verified the IRA had ended all activities and got
rid of all its weapons, he said he and Tony Blair would try
to start all-party talks.

"That will hopefully lead to the restoration of the
assembly and executive. The reality is we have moved
Northern Ireland from a place of daily killing. It is now a
more stable place," he said.

"That was done on the basis of the Good Friday Agreement –
parties sharing power together on a cross-community basis,
working to the agenda of the Good Friday Agreement for the
betterment of the people of Northern Ireland."

SDLP leader Mark Durkan has also stressed that the public
wants to see progress in 2006 and politicians need to place
themselves firmly on "a countdown" to the restoration of
the institutions.

According to Mr Durkan this means calling the bluff of all
those parties standing in the way of progress and calling
time on their delaying tactics.

As well as an attempt by the governments to get the
political parties to talk about restoring devolution, a
number of other developments are on the political horizon

n possible changes to the Northern Ireland (Offences) Bill
in the run-up to the report stage at Westminster.

There has been speculation that the government will give
way on a number of issues.

This may mean that applicants will now be required to
appear before a special tribunal and a time limit could
also be attached to the provisions of the Bill, so that
unless applications are made before a certain deadline, the
OTRs will always be liable to arrest.

n minister of state David Hanson's political engagement
with loyalism and examination of deprivation in some
working class loyalist areas is still ongoing but is due to
come to an end later this month.

A report from Mr Hanson is then expected either in February
or March on the key themes.

Mr Hanson, whose role at the NIO is to support the
secretary of state on political development, will look at
tackling deprivation across all disadvantaged communities
and not just those in loyalist areas.

The initial signs to emerge certainly in loyalist areas is
that there is a need to develop community capacity

This is about transforming communities through making
people aware of what is available regarding programmes,
funding and support.

The NIO, for example, believes that one of the biggest
problems is that many people in loyalist areas are not
always aware of these programmes or how to access them.

It has been suggested that nationalist communities are
better organised and therefore more effective in gaining
access to funding.

To a certain extent this is correct and government now
recognise the need to build capacity in communities so that
a deprived community, irrespective of background, can gain
access to the necessary funding that may be available.


McGuinness Denies Motorman Knowledge

Allegations 'total absolute nonsense'

By Sarah Brett
04 January 2006

MID-Ulster MP Martin McGuinness today rubbished claims that
he knew in advance about Operation Motorman, which left two
young Londonderry men dead in 1972.

One of those killed was IRA man Seamus Bradley, whose
brother Daniel believes the Sinn Fein leadership has
questions to answer.

He claims that both Mr McGuinness - a top IRA man at the
time - and Gerry Adams fled across the border on the eve of
the incursion because they had prior warning from the
British Government.

"Why wasn't my brother warned?" Mr Bradley asked yesterday.

It is well known that the two republicans took part in
secret talks with the then Secretary of State William
Whitelaw in the July of 1972.

Mr Bradley wants the minutes of the meeting made public.

Mr McGuinness today dismissed the claims out of hand.

"Such allegations are total and absolute nonsense but what
is public knowledge is that because of possible
ramifications and international opinion following the
Bloody Sunday Massacre that January the British government
heavily briefed the Irish government and the SDLP
leadership of its intentions to invade the no-go areas," he

"While the Sinn Fein leadership understands and shares the
emotional hurt and grief felt by Mr Bradley around the
death of his brother there is no basis for these
allegations. The Republican Movement holds the Bradley
family in high regard and esteem."

Mr Bradley claims that Sinn Fein have consistently refused
to erect a memorial for his brother whom he says "died for


Sinn Fein Figures Brave Rumor Mills

By Anne Cadwallader

BELFAST - Republicans are accusing British security
agencies and the police of deliberately spreading false
rumors alleging named ex-prisoners and leading Sinn Fein
figures are informers and spies.

After the former prisoner and Sinn Fein member, Denis
Donaldson, admitted being a British spy for 20 years, the
climate in republican circles is such that that some are
accepting the rumors as fact without any supporting

Sinn Fein sources say the purpose of spreading the
speculation is to subvert the peace process by causing
dissension within republican ranks.

It's believed that as many as five people in West Belfast
(all considered solid republicans) have been phoned by
journalists who claim they are on the brink of being
publicly "outed" as informers.

The reports are said to be causing untold misery to the
victims' families and friends and creating uncertainty in
the wake of the Donaldson revelations. Senior Sinn Féin
sources have said such uncertainty is the desired outcome
by those responsible.

One man suffered the indignity of watching as the media
camped outside his home in West Belfast. His name had been
circulating as a possible informer without any cause or
evidence that he could ascertain.

"This is complete fantasy stuff," said one senior Sinn Fein
source. "The police, or whoever, are cynically putting
people's names into the arena in the hope that someone will

"It shows how seriously the British government should take
this problem and rein in those behind this campaign of
misinformation. Those behind the rumors want to spread
paranoia amongst republicans as a spin-off to the Donaldson

"We won't let that happen. Republicans have been here
before and are treating this like the black propaganda
campaigns that the Brits have been involved in throughout
the Troubles.

One of the names being bandied about has already been
investigated by the IRA leadership after a similar report
last year. He was cleared of any involvement in informing
to the British.

Despite republican disclaimers that they are "running
scared" in the wake of the reports, nothing can be sure
after the Donaldson revelations. He had been considered a
100 percent reliable republican.

But the same Sinn Fein source said people would settle down
again after a few days and realize what the police and
British agencies were up to.

"Every time a police car stops outside someone's house,
people are wondering what it means. There is no doubt the
police and the spooks are trying to make the most of the

Sinn Fein believes the reports have another motive, other
than spreading suspicion and fear. The party sources say
that if anyone named does leave home in a hurry, as a
result, it could influence this month's report from the
Independent Monitoring Commission.

If the police are involved in what amounts to a "shopping
trip" by naming people to journalists as alleged informers,
and if they hit on the name of someone who does fear
exposure, it could be interpreted as evidence that the IRA
is still active.

If so, it could be used by the Commission in its vital
report this month and seized on as evidence by Ian
Paisley's DUP as another reason not to either talk or share
power with Sinn Fein.

Sinn Féin MP Pat Doherty said the Stormontgate affair had
highlighted the issue of "political policing." He said that
people are at least now aware of what the term means and
how it could damage the peace process.

"Instead of trying to defend the indefensible, it would
suit the policing establishment better if they got their
house in order. They now have a big job of work to try and
convince nationalists and republicans that they are capable
of operating in an accountable and acceptable fashion," he

This story appeared in the issue of January 4 - 10, 2006


Council Backs St Pat's Day Parade

Belfast City Council is to provide £100,000 towards the
organising of this year's St Patrick's Day parade.

Councillors voted on Wednesday by 25 votes to 24 to
organise an outdoor, carnival-type event on 17 March.

The St Patrick's Day Carnival Committee, organisers of the
event in recent years, said the move was "a major

In the past, the parade was regarded as contentious with
unionists objecting to the presence of Irish tricolours.

Carnival committee spokesman Conor Maskey said: "We would
encourage people from all corners of the city to ensure
that they flock to this year's event and make it the most
colourful, vibrant and carnival-filled to date, so that the
argument can be made positively for future years."

In February last year, councillors voted not to grant
£30,000 to help fund the 2005 St Patrick's Day parade.

However, in July the council agreed to provide funding for
the 2006 parade.

At the time, the council said it had held a series of
discussions with the carnival committee and hoped that with
substantial council involvement, the event would be as
inclusive as possible.

This year's event will be held at Customs House Square near
Belfast city centre.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/01/04 21:38:26 GMT


Irish American Leaders Call For Assembly Return

By Ray O'Hanlon

The leaders of a number of Irish American organizations
have written British Prime Minister Tony Blair urging a
return of the Northern Ireland elected assembly.

And they base their argument on the recent collapse of the
so-called Stormont Spy Ring case.

In a strongly worded letter, the leaders, writing under the
name of an umbrella group, the Irish American Action
Committee, accuse the British government of bringing down
the assembly.

"In October of 2002, the leaders write, "your government
closed down the Northern Ireland Assembly, charging three
people including Denis Donaldson, then Sinn Fein's head of
administration at Stormont, with running an 'IRA spy ring.'

"On 9 December 2005, the 'Stormont Spy Ring' case ended at
Belfast Crown Court when your government directed that all
charges be dropped. Seven days later, Denis Donaldson,
admitted having served as a paid agent for the British
Security forces for 20 years. The British government has
not disputed his claim."

In their letter, the Irish American leaders contend that
the assembly, despite its limitations, provided the people
of Northern with their first opportunity for democratic
debate and self-government on a genuinely representative
basis since the partition of Ireland.

It was, they argued, "a remarkable achievement for
tolerance and fairness" by all the parties involved in
reaching the Good Friday agreement.

However, the continued, successive British secretaries of
state had twice acted "unilaterally" to shutter the gates
of Stormont and shatter the aspirations of people of all
political and religious persuasions.

"Each time they cited information from the British security
services of foul play by Sinn Fein. Once again this
'information' has been exposed as a fabrication. In this
latest debacle, the only 'spy ring' at Stormont was that
orchestrated by the British security services themselves."

The implications, the leaders asserted, were serious in the

British officials promised devolved government but had
violated that promise and manipulated the fragile
institutions of power sharing.

The result was that, nearly eight years after the Good
Friday agreement, those institutions had been in operation
for only 20 months, with direct rule from Britain for the
overwhelming majority of the time.

"Your government bears the responsibility for bringing down
the freely and democratically elected Assembly. If this
happened in any other part of the world, a British Prime
Minister would be first in line to condemn such police
state misconduct," the letter stated.

The peoples of Ireland and Britain were all stakeholders in
the peace process but their confidence had been betrayed.

"Unless British security services are operating without
control and accountability, senior persons in your
government must have known throughout that 'Stormontgate'
was a fraud and that Donaldson was working for your own
security services," the letter continued.

"The tragic irony is that while the devolved assembly was
allowed to run, it worked better than anyone had reasonably
expected. With cross-community confidence now at an all
time low, your government bears the responsibility for
restoring hope and breathing new life into a moribund peace

"At the very least, all stakeholders in the peace process
have the right to an open and transparent inquiry into how
and why Britain's intelligence services brought the
assembly down three years ago.

"Just as importantly, the British government has to show
the resolve necessary by immediately re-instating the
political institutions and make the Good Friday agreement
work," the signatories concluded.

The letter to Blair, which was faxed to Downing Street, was
signed by Frank Durkin for Americans for a New Irish
Agenda; Ned McGinley for the Ancient Order of Hibernians;
James Cullen, Patrick Doherty and Steven McCabe of the
Brehon Law Societies; Robert Linnon of the Irish American
Unity Conference; Joe Jamison for the Irish American Labor
Coalition; Paul Doris of the Irish Northern Aid Committee;
Sean Cahill of the Irish Parades Emergency Committee;
Edmund Lynch for Lawyers' Alliance and Julie Coleman, who
is secretary of the Irish American Action Committee.

This story appeared in the issue of January 4 - 10, 2006


Fired Up Over Queen's Toast

Councillor hits back at allegations he lifted a glass to
honour English queen

Ciarán Barnes

A row has broken out on a Northern council over claims that
SDLP councillors toasted Britain's Queen Elizabeth at a
recent function.

Sinn Féin councillor Billy Leonard said he had witnessed
senior SDLP member John Dallat and two colleagues lift a
glass in honour of the monarch at the Coleraine Borough
Council event last month.

Mr Dallat yesterday denied the claim. He accused Mr Leonard
of hypocrisy given the Sinn Féin man's previous membership
of the RUC and Orange Order.

The spat between the former friends came on the back of ex-
SDLP spin doctor Tom Kelly accepting an OBE as part of
Queen Elizabeth's New Year's honours.

It is official policy of the SDLP not to accept awards from
the British monarchy. Mr Kelly was one of the SDLP
nominations to the Policing Board but has since left the

Wading into the row, Billy Leonard insisted that the SDLP's
position on taking awards from and toasting the monarchy
was contradictory to republicanism, an ideal that the SDLP
insists is at its core.

The Sinn Féin councillor said: "The whole idea of an
unelected, upper-class and remote, privileged monarchy is a
total anathema to republicanism.

"How can the SDLP stand with unionists drinking a loyal
toast while trying to make the claims they have made

John Dallat accused Mr Leonard of sour grapes.

"When Billy Leonard was in the RUC, I was banging on the
doors of barracks trying to get justice for nationalists
being treated badly and who had been wrongly arrested. When
he was flirting with the Orange Order, my family was being

"I've did my best not to get into a personal dispute with
him but there is only so much I can take," said Mr Dallat.

"I didn't toast the queen and what my colleagues did is a
matter for themselves. People are now waking up to the fact
Mr Leonard is waging a personal campaign to discredit me
and take my assembly seat."

Referring to his time in the RUC, Mr Leonard said that what
he did as a teenager was in a "totally different identity

He stressed: "I am a long time on record as saying that I
then challenged the British identity into which I was born.
I wasn't claiming to be a republican then, like the SDLP is

The controversy over Tom Kelly's acceptance of an OBE is
not the first time that the SDLP has found itself embroiled
in a row over honours from the British monarchy.

Former Magharafelt district councillor Mary McSorley claims
she was driven out of the party after accepting an award in
the late 1980s.

Castlereagh councillor Rosaleen Hughes accepted an MBE in
1996 but her position in the party did not come under


UUP Calls To Suspend Plans For Shake-Up

By David Gordon
04 January 2006

ULSTER Unionist Party leader Sir Reg Empey was today
preparing to table a motion at Belfast City Council calling
on the Secretary of State to suspend plans for a shake-up
of local government. Sir Reg will put his motion before
tonight's meeting.

It comes after this newspaper reported yesterday that
outside advisers to the RPA (Reform of Public
Administration) team have estimated that between 2,020 and
3,847 full-time posts are likely to be axed as a result of
the shake-up which will reduce the number of councils from
26 to seven.

The report by consultancy firm Deloitte also estimated that
the implementation costs would be between £133m and £397m.

Sir Reg said Direct Rule Ministers had made no mention of
the cost when announcing the RPA blueprint in November.

"Government Ministers should have come clean with the
public that there was pain as well as gain in what they
were doing.

"I suspect that the reason for avoiding this issue was that
they were trying to build up public support for their
unacceptable proposals on local government reform which are
opposed by all parties except Sinn Fein. They were hoping
that general discontent with politicians could be used as a
smokescreen to push these measures through without spelling
out the full costs," he said.

Alliance Party spokesman Tom Campbell hit out at the
Government for choosing the RPA option.

Mr Campbell, a Newtownabbey councillor, said: "The
Government made no effort to reveal its own internal advice
setting out estimates of the extent of redundancies among

"It was significantly not referred to when the Government
made its recent announcement reducing the size and scale of
public administration here."

The RPA model unveiled in November involves merging the
province's five education boards into one body, reducing
the number of councils from 26 to seven and cutting the
number of health trusts from 18 to five.

The Deloitte report was released by the Government
following a freedom of information request.


McKeown: Christmas Arson Was 'Mass Murder Attempts'

By Anne Cadwallader

Portadown Sinn Féin councilor, Brian McKeown, said
Christmas morning arson attacks on several homes in the
town were "mass murder attempts." A number of Catholic
homes in were badly damaged.

The area where the fires occurred is next to an interface
with loyalist districts and yards away from where local
Catholic man, Francis Brown, was murdered several years ago
by a loyalist bomb.

"There is clearly no other way to describe the actions of
those responsible for putting flammable substances through
the letterboxes of homes in the early hours of Christmas
morning," said McKeown.

"People living in these homes had gone to bed on Christmas
Eve with the expectation of waking up to family and
religious celebrations on Christmas Day," he said.

"Instead they were cruelly awakened from their sleep in the
early hours of this morning to find their homes ablaze.
This entire community is in shock after these arson
attacks. It is extremely fortunate that no one was injured
or, worse still, murdered."

The Orange Order in Portadown had applied to the Parades
Commission for an Orange march along the nearby Garvaghy
Road at lunchtime on Christmas Day but were denied
permission to do so.

Meanwhile, the SDLP assembly member for Lagan Valley,
Patricia Lewsley, has condemned a hoax security alert,
which led to the abandonment of racing at Down Royal on
December 26.

"The people who phoned in this hoax have absolutely nothing
to offer anyone in Ireland. They have no political support
and no political program worthy of the name. Dissident
republicans can only make pathetic attempts to drag us back

"They have the potential to damage our tourism and take
jobs away from the people of the north, but that is all
they have. The decent people who want a decent future want
these people to leave them alone."

Meanwhile, the Sinn Féin MP for Mid Ulster, Martin
McGuinness, delivered the oration at the funeral of former
1981 IRA hunger striker, Matt Devlin, in Co. Tyrone.

"Matt Devlin was an inspirational figure," said McGuinness,
and a former IRA volunteer. "He spent two long periods in
prison, yet despite great personal hardships, including ill
heath, never gave up."

This story appeared in the issue of January 4 - 10, 2006


2006 'A Window Of Opportunity' For Northern Ireland

There is no 'Plan B' available if power-sharing is not
restored in Northern Ireland during 2006, the Irish
government claimed today.

By:Press Association

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern warned
political parties that the time had come to decide whether
they want to work together in a devolved government in the
coming months.

He said that dragging negotiations on the issue into 2007
would create separate difficulties for the British and
Irish governments.

"There is no Plan B. We don`t countenance failure in this
because we were very close to it back in December 2004," Mr
Ahern said today.

"But we see 2006 as the window of opportunity because of
the fact that once you turn into 2007 you will be in
election mode in the Republic in the first half of the year
and also the political instability in the UK.

"Everyone would agree that 2007 may very well be a
difficult year in the UK. So both governments are
absolutely adamant that 2006 is the time when the
politicians of Northern Ireland have to decide for
themselves whether they want to work in partnership in a
devolved government."

The Louth TD said an assembly and executive needed to be
set up to deal with the bread-and-butter issues that
affects every person in Northern Ireland.

"It makes no economic sense that a small island of 5.5
million people be treated as two separate entities in a
globalised economy, because competitiveness is the key

"In the interests of people in Northern Ireland, it is
absolutely vital that [political parties] sit down to
decide their own destiny," he told RTE Radio.

"Basically politicians have to work with the tools that are
available to them, and with the Good Friday Agreement the
people said that there should be direct rule in Northern
Ireland where the Northern Ireland politicians should be
the authors of their own destiny, not politicians coming
across for a couple of days from the UK," he added.

"The Agreement sets the template for the future political
landscape in Northern Ireland. We can only proceed on that

Joining Mr Ahern in a radio debate, Democratic Unionist MP
Jeffrey Donaldson referred to the stated reluctance of
Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern to enter government with
Sinn Fein in the Republic during present circumstances.

He added: "We have to wait on the IRA to come clean. I
don`t want to put the IRA into government. We`re not going
into government with Sinn Fein until they are cleaner than

The Independent Monitoring Commission is due to deliver a
long-awaited report on the activities of paramilitary
groups this month.

Mr Donaldson said the DUP would continue to engage with the
Republic on economic co-operation until devolution is

"We are happy to co-operate on economic issues where there
is mutual benefit for both parts of the island .. until the
institutions are up and running.

"Let`s not get hung up on the idea that the only form of
economic co-operation is to create a single-island economy.
There are other ways that we can do this," he said.

Referring to the recent spying controversies in Northern
Ireland, Mr Ahern said any inquiries could stall political

"People were calling for inquiries. The inquiries would
only give people an excuse not to move. They`d wait until
the inquiry was over. Of course with all these murky
goings-on, whether it is in Stormont or otherwise, spying
by one side or another, you never really get to the truth
in relation to it."

From a political point of view, governments will always say
that we are happy with our security services but that`s not
to say that right across the world there aren`t rogues
within the security services.

Mr Ahern said he didn`t know if there were still spies in
Belfast. "I don`t have the knowledge to say whether that is
true or not," he explained.

Mr Ahern said that PSNI Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde had
told the Irish government during a security briefing in
Dublin last month that Sinn Fein had been operating a spy
ring at Stormont in 2002, despite the prosecution charges
being dropped.

The minister added: "But we don`t only accept his word. We
also have to look at the investigation by Police Ombudsman
Nuala O`Loan and we also have to look at what was going on
here in the Republic in the famous case where Sinn Fein
members are now in jail as a result of monitoring elected


1975: O Bradaigh's 1975 Papers Released

THE PERSONAL papers of Roscommon resident Ruairi O
Bradaigh, who was president of Sinn Fein in 1975, have
recently been released under the 30-year rule relating to
State papers.

The newly released State Papers shed new light on the IRA
ceasefire of 1975 and on negotiations between the
Republican movement and representatives of the British
government at the time.

In 1975 Ruairi O'Bradaigh was President of Provisional Sinn
Fein, which was a leading supporter of the IRA's campaign
of violence but which was also supportive of the IRA
ceasefire, which lasted most of that year.

Mr O'Bradaigh was a participant in top secret talks with
British officials and took detailed notes of the meetings.
These notes have now been deposited in the library of NUI,
Galway and are now available to researchers.

The papers provide new details about the discussions,
including a suggestion from the British government that it
might withdraw from Northern Ireland. The notes detail the
original Republican set of the demands, the so-called 12
points, and the 16 points demanded in return by the British

While some of their contents have been published before,
this is the first time that these records can be compared
to the contemporary British records having been released
under the 30-year rule.


Jan 5, 1976: Ten Dead In Northern Ireland Ambush

Ten Protestant men have been shot dead as they were
returning home from work in a mini-bus in Northern Ireland.

The attack happened on the Whitecross to Bessbrook Road in
South Armagh this evening as the men, all textile workers,
returned from a factory six miles from Bessbrook.

The mini-bus in which they were travelling was ambushed by
up to a dozen attackers. It is believed the massacre was in
revenge for the murders of five Catholics in Lurgen and
Whitecross last night.

Initial reports suggest the passengers were forced to line
up outside their vehicle, after which they were
systematically gunned down.

Detectives found more than 100 spent cartridges at the

One survivor remains critically ill in hospital with bullet
wounds to his lungs and a further passenger, a Catholic,
was ordered away before the shooting.

Nine of the dead men were from the village of Bessbrook -
the bus driver came from Mount Norris.

Johnston Chapman had to identify the bodies of his two
nephews, who died in the attack. He said: "They were just
lying there like dogs, blood everywhere."

"If the people who did this saw them like that, surely to
God if they had any conscience they would say 'well we're
about to cut this out."

Both Republican and Loyalist terrorists have been involved
in violence during the past few days.

The Provisional IRA has said it is ready for a full-scale
military campaign if there is not a British declaration of
intent to withdraw from Northern Ireland.

But the violence has been condemned from all sides.

Northern Ireland Secretary of State Merlyn Rees condemned
the recent attacks as "straight gangsterism".

He said: "Retaliation breeds retaliation and unless people
down there realise the wicked nonsense of what they are
doing to their fellow men this will go on and on and on."

Seamus Mallon, of the nationalist SDLP (Social Democratic
and Labour Party) said the barbarity of this latest crime
was matched only by its cowardice.

Ulster Unionist MP Harold McCusker said he was afraid
County Armagh was facing anarchy.

In Context

A commemoration service to mark the 25th anniversary of the
Kingsmill Massacre, as it came to be known, was held in
South Armagh in 2001.

The attack, which was one of the worst single sectarian
attacks in the history of the Troubles in Northern Ireland,
was carried out by a group calling itself the South Armagh
Republican Action Force, which was widely believed to have
been made up of IRA members.

Only one man, Alan Black, survived the attack despite being
shot 18 times.

Another workman on the bus, a Catholic, was ordered away
from the scene.

No-one was ever charged over the murders.


Opin: Spying In Northern Ireland Will End Only When There
Is Trust On All Sides

Spying has long been a part of political life in Northern
Ireland, but now we are into a new phase of using a fear of
spies to spread suspicion, writes Jim Dougal

A couple of months ago I met Denis Donaldson. I had gone to
the Sinn Féin headquarters on Falls Road in west Belfast
with the intention of interviewing party president Gerry
Adams. As I waited in the reception area, Mr Donaldson
arrived. I had not met him for a few years and did not
recognise him. He reintroduced himself and then said: "I'm
the spy. Everyone thinks I'm a spy."

We laughed and joked about this for a while and then off he
went about his business.

And I thought he was referring to Stormontgate! Many's the
true word etc.

Surely the only surprise that Donaldson was a spy or double
agent was because of his standing within his party and the
ease with which he was able to move within it, fooling his
colleagues, experts in intrigue, for more than 20 years.

This includes some in the United States who suspected him.
Some of these people, including Noraid director Martin
Galvin, later rejected the present Sinn Féin leadership

Donaldson is lucky he was not outed a few years ago. If he
had, he would have been found shot in the head on a lonely
country road. Perhaps there are those on the fringes of
this peace/political process who hoped that the IRA would
take this action and scuttle attempts at renewing the
political institutions for good.

This affair has been massively embarrassing for Sinn Féin,
and has sent a wave of paranoia through the party. If one
of its senior and most trusted aides can be a spy, then who
else? The spinners from the other side are already
whispering the names of more senior party members to
further destabilise the party. There may have been good
reason for the use of moles when there was a so-called war
in the North. Now they are doing it to keep one step ahead
of the people they are trying to do a deal and make peace

The problem in Northern Ireland is that every party will
use whatever opportunity exists or arises to consolidate
their distrust of the other side. Deal-making becomes more
difficult when you cannot trust the people with whom you
are negotiating.

The IRA has been spying on the British security forces,
governments and others at least since 1969, and the British
have been spying on anyone they thought might be useful
since well before that.

I know of no journalist or politician in Northern Ireland
who does not suspect that at some time his phone has been
tapped or his movements monitored.

In the 1970s, there was a pub in the grounds of British
army headquarters in Lisburn. It was built to look as much
like an English country establishment as possible, a home
from home for the soldiers.

It was there that senior army personnel would entertain
journalists of an evening. I went occasionally. Indeed, I
even ate in the officers mess sometimes.

Then one afternoon my telephone rang at home. The short
clipped English accent at the other end introduced itself
as a captain at army headquarters.

They were having a few problems with information, he
informed me. He knew that I had relatives in west Belfast,
visited the area regularly, and wondered if I would be able
to help him with some gaps in his knowledge about people in
the area?

Before dismissing him and telling him not to phone me
again, I asked him if I had said or done something specific
to make him believe I was mad. He never did call again, but
I had no doubt he and others were fully aware of the
contents of my phone conversations thereafter and worked on
that basis for the next 30 years.

Not long afterwards a journalist from the Guardian
newspaper was regaled by a drunken official at a Stormont
Christmas party with the contents of private telephone
conversations she had had with her boyfriend. This was how
cavalier they were with information at the time. A bit more
sophisticated now perhaps.

No one who worked in journalism at the time could have a
private life.

The former SDLP leader John Hume was bugged, he believed by
the Provos, in 1992 when he was in talks with Gerry Adams.

While I was preparing a BBC Panorama programme on the peace
process in 1993 I have it on the highest authority that
every move made by the production team was monitored by
MI5. When my producer and I returned to London, we put a
bag of videotapes we had recorded in the hold of the

When we arrived they could not be found, but somehow the
airline recovered them the next day. When we examined them
the tapes had been rewound. That means that someone had
watched them, and it wasn't us.

There are many other instances of the spooks at work. Sinn
Féin headquarters was bugged. The Adams-McGuinness car was
bugged on the authority of Mo Mowlam, and the Provos
managed to infiltrate police headquarters at Castlereagh in
east Belfast. The British army and Special Branch colluded
with loyalists to target people and the IRA used all means
available to get its victim as well.

So why has the outing of Donaldson not been followed by a
public outcry? The reason is that few people are surprised
that this has been happening.

They would have been surprised if it hadn't been happening.

It is a fact of life. The British government, the RUC
Special Branch, MI5 and the Provos were masters in the
field. One problem for the PSNI is that many of the police
experts left on early retirement when the RUC wound up. The
biggest gap there has been in recent years was the failure
of the PSNI Special Branch to rumble the Northern bank
robbers before Christmas 2004.

Those who are calling for an inquiry into the
Donaldson/Stormont affairs are whistling in the wind. There
will be none. If the powers that be would not disclose the
evidence to bring the matter to court, they will not
produce it to an inquiry. They would not even disclose it
to an independent disclosure judge to assess its value.

This is a judge who assesses the information and, without
disclosing it, gives a view to the presiding judge. So this
particular can of worms will remain tightly shut.

Many in the police believe that if there was devolution,
and responsibility for justice was returned to a devolved
administration, Sinn Féin would seek to decimate the PSNI
Special Branch.

This year is important for Northern Ireland. It may be the
last year that Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and British prime
minister Tony Blair will be in a position to influence

The Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain has said he will
not sanction elections to an assembly at Stormont, due in
May 2007, unless there is an institution to hold elections
for. He is absolutely right.

It's up to the politicians to create the conditions in
which this can happen and in which the spooks, from
wherever they come, can begin to wind down. Until then, we
can be sure their activities will continue.

Jim Dougal is a journalist and broadcaster, former Northern
editor of RTÉ, Northern Ireland political editor of the BBC
and former head of the European Commission in Belfast and

© The Irish Times


Opin: Unionists In Danger Of Losing Prized Bauble

The Wednesday Column
By Brian Feeney

Instead of our beautifully maintained proconsul trying to
persuade unionists to begin negotiations with Sinn Fein
this year, would it not be more worthwhile for him to try
to get them to ask themselves a more fundamental question,
namely, what is Norn Irn for?

We know what it used to be for. It was devised in 1920 as a
place to preserve that diminishing and endangered ethnic
species, the Ulster Prod, known for political purposes as
unionists. It wasn't unique. There were other havens
created about the same time, most notably Lebanon, a place
or state of grace given to the Christians of Mount Lebanon
where they could lord it over the surrounding vast numbers
of Muslims. Over the next 60 years the Christians made
themselves so objectionable that the place had to be taken
from them. Despite help from among others, Israel and
France, they were routed in a bloody civil war which by
coincidence took place during the Troubles here, though it
was over much more quickly.

Like the Christians of Mount Lebanon, Norn Irn had to be
taken from the unionists. They didn't last as long as their
Lebanese counterparts. They managed to score maximum points
on the objectionable scale in 50 years.

The place which Sir James Craig's brother candidly told the
House of Commons was "the largest area we can hold", no
longer belongs to unionists. Legislation has put
nationalists formally on a par in almost all walks of life.

Most importantly, unionists no longer own the security
forces Churchill presented to them in 1921. With the
unlamented disbandment of the RIR they will no longer have
their own militia for the first time since the 18th
century. The days are gone when any Orange lawyer with half
a brain who became a unionist MP could look forward to
becoming a judge automatically. Interesting sign of the
times: no lawyer with half a brain even thinks it's worth
trying to be a unionist MP. It's the road to nowhere.

When their allies in Westminster gave them what came to be
called Norn Irn, unionists could at least argue they would
lose financially and economically if consigned to the Free
State. That argument remained valid until about 20 years
ago. No longer.

One of the reasons for Norn Irn was that it provided cheap
labour for the wealthy manufacturers who had built an
industrial enclave here. By the 1970s all those industries
were dead or dying. From a position 50 years ago where
those industries gave the north 37 per cent of total Irish
output, the north's output is now 23 per cent of the whole
island's and falling.

The north's output is now 22 per cent lower per head the
Republic's. The standard of living here is only maintained
by massive transfers from Britain, more than anywhere else
in the UK.

Our proconsul warns it can't go on. As security spending
falls along with the jobs for unionists that went with it,
another prop is removed. Repeatedly British ministers take
decisions at EU meetings which naturally don't suit people
here but are tailored to Britain's economy, whereas of
course the Republic's ministers take decisions which would
benefit the whole island.

Now our proconsul is threatening to take away the bauble
unionists always prized most, their wee toy parliament at
Stormont. Do they not realise that the assembly was placed
at the centre of the Good Friday institutions to placate

Do they not realise that without it they will control
nothing, nor ever hope to? Well yes, but they also realise
only too well the price, which is to reach out the hand to
Sinn Fein and, wait for it, run the north jointly with
fenians with an input from the Irish government.

Neither Irish nor British government has yet accepted that
the unionist electorate in 2003 and 2005 voted decisively
to prevent that outcome. The DUP best articulates that
position. There's no danger of them admitting to their
voters that the terms of trade with the rest of the island
and Britain have irrevocably changed, that they need to
consider if they can't own Norn Irn, but won't share it,
what's the point of it? An open air museum?


Serious Flaws Found In Sections Of Dublin's Luas System

By Stephen Collins, Political Correspondent

Serious flaws in sections of Dublin's Luas light rail
system have been identified in a comprehensive study
commissioned by the contractors who built the lines, writes
Stephen Collins, Political Correspondent

Repair work on nearly eight kilometres (five miles) of
track has been recommended as a matter of urgency in the
interests of long-term safety for passengers using the two

The study, commissioned by AMB Joint Ventures who built the
Luas lines, was carried out by the Institute for Railway
Engineering at the University of Graz in Austria.

It identifies deficiencies in the bonding material under
the rail in the city sections of both Luas lines.
Approximately 6.4km of track on the Tallaght line and 1.3km
on the Sandyford line are affected.

"The debonding is gradually more serious with sharper
curvatures of the alignment and manifests itself by opening
of fissures and cracks which permit penetration of water
into the load-carrying system," according to the report.

It says that, so far, no reduction in operational safety
had been observed, but concern was expressed about the
future. "The development of bonding deficiencies gives rise
to foresee a growing uncertainty towards the reliability
and proper functioning of the system, particularly in tight

The report says that even before the opening of the Luas
lines, the tracks were beginning to show deficiencies.
"After installation, a small number of blocks showed
debonding, with frequent use by trams the number of
affected blocks increased dramatically.

"After a short period of commercial tram operation (October
2004) already 32 per cent of blocks in straights and wide
curves and 57 per cent of blocks in tight curves showed
failures," says the report.

The report recommends that the track structure will have to
be strengthened in the critical sections through a number
of track-stiffening measures.

Fine Gael MEP Gay Mitchell, who has raised safety concerns
about the system in the past, said yesterday that the
report raised a number of issues.

"Firstly we need to know why this report was commissioned
and what its cost was. We then need to know what the cost
is going to be of putting right the deficiencies that have
been identified so soon after the system was opened.
Finally, we need to know what the safety implications are."

© The Irish Times


Book Of The Week: 'Holy Cross - A Personal Experience' By Aidan Troy

During the thirty years of troubles in the North of
Ireland, there are but a handful of people who have become
symbols of true courage. Fr Aidan Troy, the author of Holy
Cross – A Personal Experience, is one of these people.

Although he knew little about the North, within months of
his arrival in the Catholic Ardoyne community, Fr Troy had
witnessed one of the most disturbing incidents in the
North's recent history. Young children, going to and from
Holy Cross Primary School, were subjected to some of the
most shameful sectarian hatred and violence. Protestors
taunted the children, their parents and teachers with
disturbing comments, as well as displaying pornographic
posters, throwing balloon bombs containing urine and even
pipe bombs.

This insider account of those shocking weeks does not make
for easy reading. Nor does Fr Troy attempt to offer
simplistic solutions, focusing instead on his unshaking
belief throughout that the rights of the children must be

A fascinating account of a piece of Northern Irish history,
Holy Cross – A Personal Experience is available on and retails at €11.99.


Stranded Family Use Camera Flash To Guide Mountain Rescuers

04/01/2006 - 14:29:05

A Cambridge University lecturer returned home from Ireland
today after he and his family were rescued from mountains
in west Cork with the help of a camera flash.

Dr Tim Flack, his partner and his four children aged
between nine and seven were stranded on Healy Pass in the
Caha Mountains near Castletownbere for several hours on
Monday night.

The family got lost while walking along the dangerous pass
after darkness fell.

Dr Flack, a lecturer in engineering, realised they would
not make it to the relative safety of nearby Hungry Hill
without light and called gardai on his mobile phone to
raise the alarm.

Some six hours later the family-of-six were safely taken
off the mountain by the Kerry Mountain Rescue and
Castletownbere cliff Rescue teams.

The family, including children Hanna and Sophie aged 9,
Emily aged 8 and William aged 7, had been located at around
9pm after Dr Flack used the flash on his camera as a

But it took rescue teams over two hours to zig-zag the
family down the steep slopes using rope supports to ensure
the youngsters did not fall.

Gerry Christie, spokesman for Kerry Mountain Rescue,
praised Dr Flack for raising the alarm when he got into

"If he had tried to push on through the dangerous ground
after darkness fell instead of calling for help that would
have been worse," he said.

Dr Flack had been renting a holiday home in the area. He
told rescue teams he had been advised by a local farmer
that he could walk from the top of the Healy Pass to Hungry
Hill, a difficult walk even in favourable conditions.

"By the time he was halfway along he realised that he
wasn't going to finish it," Mr Christie said.

"He thought he could take a short cut, but as ever in the
mountains if you take the short cut that's were
difficulties present themselves."

Mr Christie added the children were cold and wet but
cheerful after several hours on the dangerous slopes.

The family spent the next two days at their holiday cottage
in the Healy Pass before returning to Cambridge today.


Tributes Paid To Parish Priest

By Suzanne McGonagle Newry Correspondent

TRIBUTES were paid last night to a former Co Down parish
priest and long-term member of the Pioneer movement, who
died aged 84.

Described as "a man of great intellect," Father Tom
McConville died at Daisy hill Hospital in Newry yesterday.

He had served as parish priest of Mayobridge, near
Warrenpoint, from 1983 to 2000 before becoming curate in
the Drumgath parish of Rathfriland.

Born in Tullylish, Co Down in 1921, Fr Mc-Conville was
ordained in June 1948 at Maynooth.

He served in parishes in Bedford, England, Newry Cathedral,
Magherlin in Co Armagh, Dromore, Seagoe near Portadown and
Warrenpoint from 1948 to 1983 before his appointment as
parish priest and later curate.

He retired from ministerial duties in 2004 and lived at St
Joseph's home in Warrenpoint before his recent

Fr McConville was a lifelong pioneer and a keen musician
who helped to form the Ceolthas group in Warrenpoint.

Iris McEvoy, president of Drumgath Pioneer Total Abstinence
Association last night paid tribute to Fr McConville, who
she described as "a lovely man – a gentleman".

"A man of great intellect and in a modest way, he was
approachable and a good listener," she said.

"Fr Tom was a pastor in every sense of the word, a deeply
spiritual man.

"He visited the homes in the parishes and the sick were
attended wherever they were."

Ms McEvoy said that he was a dedicated member of the
Pioneer movement.

"Fr Tom was a most active ambassador for the Pioneer Total
Abstinence Movement and was

well-known throughout Ireland," she said.

"His efforts to enrol primary school children to join the
association before they proceeded to further education
brought its rewards."

Fr Tom McConville is survived both by his brother Sean and
his niece Marian Fearon.


Clare Island Homes To Get Firefighting Devices

By Tom Shiel in Castlebar

Every house on the three largest inhabited islands off Co
Mayo - Clare Island, Inishturk and Inishbiggle - are to get
free smoke alarms, a fire extinguisher and a fire blanket
as part of a fire-prevention programme by Mayo County

The council decided on the initiative, which is being
funded by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht
Affairs, because it is impractical to station firefighting
units on the islands.

Mayo county secretary John Condon said yesterday that
council personnel would be travelling to the islands four
times to train people in the use of the equipment.

The islands have a combined population of about 300.

© The Irish Times


Visitors To Ireland In 2005 Grew To 6.7m But Rural Tourism Still In Decline

By Fiona Gartland

Visitor numbers to Ireland grew to an all-time high of
6.7 million in 2005 but rural areas lost out, according to
figures released yesterday.

Total earnings from tourism last year amounted to €5.3
billion, up €200 million on 2004 and the number of tourists
travelling to urban centres including Dublin, Limerick,
Kilkenny, Waterford and Galway increased. But visitors to
rural areas continued to decline, according to a review of
the year by Fáilte Ireland.

Trips from continental Europe increased by 16.9 per cent,
particularly from the accession countries. Visitors from
Britain were also up by 2.7 per cent, but numbers from
North America were down.

The increase in visitors from the Continent was attributed
to a larger number of direct access routes to Ireland and a
growth in the trend in trips to visit friends and relations
working in Ireland.

Domestic tourism continued to grow last year with Irish
people taking 3.1 million holidays in Ireland, up by 51 per
cent since 2000.

Shaun Quinn, chief executive of Fáilte Ireland, said that
occupancy levels in hotels were up to 64 per cent but that
the international average was 70 per cent.

"It is clear that the return on assets can be improved,
that capacity is likely to be at optimum level and that the
removal of tax incentives for hotel construction in the
2005 Budget was timely," he said.

Around 230,000 people were employed in the hospitality
sector in 2005 and one in four hospitality workers were not
Irish. Tourism was Ireland's most important indigenous
industry last year, accounting for 3.7 per cent of Gross
National Product.

But growth targets in the industry, set by the Tourism
Policy Review Group, will be difficult to reach if progress
on the second terminal for Dublin airport does not move
forward, according to Fáilte Ireland's chairwoman, Gillian

"There was some important progress made in 2005, with major
infrastructural projects such as the National Stadium and
National Conference Centre moving forward," she said. "But
without the second terminal we will not make growth
targets. T2 is crucial."

She cited lack of progress in access for walkers and trends
such as shorter breaks and shorter booking times as having
negative effects on rural tourism.

"The lack of progress in areas such as access for walkers,
despite two years of effort, is deeply disappointing and is
greatly to the advantage of our competitors, as Ireland is
effectively not a player in a growth market."

Visitor satisfaction was high last year with 96 per cent of
people surveyed responding that their holiday in Ireland
either matched or exceeded their expectations.

Some 89 per cent of respondents said that they chose to
holiday in Ireland because of the "beautiful scenery", 86
per cent were attracted by the "friendly people" and 84 per
cent said that they came for the "natural, unspoilt

Value for money was the most criticised aspect of holidays
in Ireland, but there was a slight improvement in visitor
rating with 67 per cent finding it fair, good or very good,
the first improvement since 2001.

Tourism businesses are optimistic about the industry's
prospects for 2006, with the exception of those in the
angling sector.

The overall growth target for 2006 is 4.9 per cent, which
would see Ireland attracting over seven million visitors.
Fáilte Ireland is hopeful of an 8 per cent growth in in
visitors from mainland Europe, North America and other
areas, and a 2.2 per cent growth in visitors from Britain.

The Ryder Cup, to be held in the K Club in Kildare in
September, is seen as an important opportunity for the

It will have a potential television audience of one
billion, with estimated earnings in the region of €140
million. Some 40,000 people will visit the golf course
daily during the tournament.

© The Irish Times


End-Of-Year Fáilte Review Shows B&Bs Under Pressure

By Fiona Gartland

Almost one out of every four Fáilte Ireland-approved bed
and breakfasts has closed down in the last five years, it
emerged yesterday, writes Fiona Gartland

In 1999 there were 4,200 B&Bs, but the number dropped to
3,300 in 2004, Fáilte Ireland said at the publication of
its end-of-year review.

The decline is expected to continue, with an anticipated
one in six B&B owners retiring over the next six or seven

Profitability in the industry has fallen because of
increased running costs and the competition provided by
low-cost hotel rooms.

Trends toward shorter city based breaks have also affected

However, bed and breakfasts remain important to tourism in

Some 25 per cent of the total number of nights spent in
Ireland by holiday-makers were spent in B&Bs in 2004.

Malcolm Connolly, head of industry and development with
Fáilte Ireland, said that in the past, B&Bs had a
significant pricing advantage over hotels. "That has
changed with the growth of hotels around the country," he

"They can also offer packages and it is hard for B&Bs to
compete and be profitable."

He said that the numbers working in the industry may get a
temporary spur in 2006 due to unapproved homes gaining
approval, but the age profile is such that numbers will

"The majority of B&Bs are small family-run businesses. In
the past, children took over the business when their
parents retired, but that is no longer happening," he said.

"We feel that B&Bs need to reposition themselves and market
themselves as a genuine family experience, instead of
competing on a bed basis."

A report commissioned by Fáilte Ireland to look into trends
in the industry, due to be published shortly, recommends
that B&B owners should be given more support to reposition
themselves in the market.

Consultants BDO Simpson Xavier also recommend that a
classification system should be introduced and a strong
orientation and marketing campaign should be launched to
support the industry.

Mr Connolly added that Fáilte Ireland would be providing
support to assist the industry and following up on the
recommendations made in the consultants' report.

Vincent Gorman, chairman of Irish Farmhouse Holidays
Association, said that many of his members are retiring
from the business and are not being replaced.

"Providing B&B is a 12 hours a day job and people have
better opportunities, are better educated and have access
to higher quality jobs now," he said.

"There has been an explosion particularly in three-star
hotel rooms and they are dropping their prices down to B&B
rates. That has put pressure on B&Bs."

He said that there was however, growth in on-farm self-
catering accommodation among the organisation's members.

© The Irish Times

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